Injuries have taken their toll on the Gators football team this spring.
Just days away from the Orange and Blue Debut, Florida has just six healthy offensive linemen, Jonathan Bullard is out for the game with a lingering hamstring injury, Demarcus Robinson is still hobbled by an ankle injury suffered during spring and Solomon Patton is still in an orange non-contact jersey just to name a few.
It’s these injuries and more that will have the Orange and Blue Debut looking a lot more like a practice than the annual scrimmage fans have grown accustomed to.
Will Muschamp spoke with the media on Tuesday and announced that the spring game will be more of an open practice and the event will now be free to the public.
“Obviously with our numbers right now with healthy guys on the offensive line – and let me stress that right now we’ve got 11 offensive linemen on scholarship on campus. But with four of those guys being out, really five of those guys being out right now, it’s not fair to go in a spring game situation and ask these guys to take 60, 70 snaps in a row. That’s not healthy. It’s not good. It’s not good for our football team.” Muschamp said. “So, we’ve changed the format a little bit, which I think will be good in a way. You guys are always complaining about practice not being open. Now, there’s one open. I know you all will be very pleased.”
With what they are able to do on the field being limited from an 11-on11 standpoint, the coaching staff had to be creative to still give the fans a unique experience and a reason to come out on Saturday.
A new wrinkle added this year will be the coaching staff wearing microphones on the field. The staff will engage with the people in attendance before, during and after the Orange and Blue Debut. During the practice, the coaching staff will explain the drills, what the purpose of the drill is, what the coaches are looking for and that should give the fans an inside look on how the team operates and just what they have been doing this spring.
The Orange and Blue Debut will go about as normal with the Gator Walk planned for 10:30 a.m. followed by the alumni flag football game beginning at 12:30. But when the practice begins, there won’t be a kickoff and 11-on-11 right away.
The team will go right into their field goal and PAT packages, followed by individual punt drills. After that, the team will go into some one-on-one work with the secondary and the receivers followed by block reaction drills with the offensive line, tight ends and running backs against the defensive front seven.
After that, the team will start at their own 35-yard line and scrimmage.
“We’ll have two series anywhere from eight to 12 plays depending on how those plays play out.” Muschamp said. “They will be normal football, as you watch on a Saturday afternoon. No different. Playing the situations out. Playing out third down. If we get stopped, start the series over with a first-and-10.”
So while the 2013 Orange and Blue Debut may not be exactly what you are used to seeing from a spring game, the coaching staff and the university have made the best of what they have and should give the fans a good showing on Saturday.
With most of the spring being closed to the public and media, this is an opportunity to see the team go through a typical spring practice with the added bonus of having the coaching staff mic’ed up to give extra insight into what is really going on with each drill and snap.
“I’m comfortable with this. I really am. This is no different than if we would have a scrimmage. And to me, it’s about getting good-on-good work. It’s about getting your best players going against your best players.” Muschamp continued. “Some of these spring games, these guys put their first group against the rest of them. You don’t get any better doing that stuff. You get better when you’re going good on good. We’re going to get one-on-one work. We’re going to get red zone one-on-one work. We’re going to get move the ball situations. We’re going to create some situations. The only thing I probably wish we would do would be maybe a third down. But I’m going to create some of those in the move the ball, when we’re moving the ball down the field I can be able to do that. This is good work. It’s good special teams work. This is a normal, scrimmage-type situation for us as far as our football team is concerned. It’s good on good, that’s all I’m concerned with.”